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Police in Turkiye rip down signs with Arabic script on them

Turkish authorities have began removing Arabic from restaurant and business signs as anti-migrant rhetoric simmers. Turkiye's interior minister says all Arabic shop signs will be replaced by the end of the year, Al Monitor reported.

July 19, 2023 at 11:09 am

A video is circulating online of police in Adana, a city in southern Turkiye, ripping down signs with the Arabic script on them.

In 2017, the municipality of Hatay, also in southern Turkiye, shared photographs of police removing Arabic signs from the front of shops stating that they were creating “visual pollution”.

Around 3.7 million Syrian refugees live in Turkiye and have grown increasingly afraid for their future amid increased racism and anti-refugee sentiment. Many live in the south of the country, close to the Syrian border.

They have been blamed for Turkiye’s economic crisis, inflation and the deprecation of the lira and politicians have called for them to return to their home country.

This worsened after twin earthquakes struck Turkiye and Syria in February, and some took it as an opportunity to blame Syrian refugees for looting and damaging shops and homes.

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Several Turks were advertising places to stay, but not for Syrians. “Quake survivors are welcome to stay in my Ankara home for a year, on condition that they are not Syrian,” one landlord tweeted.

Anti-refugee sentiment also worsened in the run up to the elections earlier this year, when observers accused both presidential candidates, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Kemal Kilicdaroglu, of fuelling a rise in racism and using Syrian refugees as scapegoats for the deteriorating economy.

The issue of the Arabic language in Turkiye has been a hot topic for months now. In May, Al Jazeera journalist Rokaya Celik was attacked in Istanbul by a member of IYI, a nationalist right-wing party, after he heard her speaking Arabic.

“This is a Turkish Republic, go back to your own country,” he said. “There is no place for Arabs here.”

Last year the Turkish brand LC Waikiki came under fire after it withdrew children’s t-shirts from shops in Turkiye after people protested that the designs included the Arabic script.

Around the same time, a 17-year-old Syrian was stabbed to death in an apparent racist attack in southern Turkiye. Faris Muhammed Al-Ali had sought refuge in Turkiye after his father died in the Syrian war.

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